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Three Things to Stop Saying to Someone who is Struggling

January 18, 2019

A few days ago, I posted something on Instagram that received a lot of really honest feedback from my followers. For those who aren’t following the government shutdown, we are right in the middle of it. We moved to California last July and with that transition came a lot of changes for our family. Changes that included minimizing my work load and client list (to the point of basically shutting everything down–again), as well as pulling our boys from the public school system in lieu of homeschooling them.

While homeschooling in and of itself is an entirely different (and very sore) subject for me, it has made the shutdown even worse for our family. Because I am homeschooling, I am not able to devote as much time to running a business (of any kind), much less grow one. The shutdown for our family and 799,999 federally employed families, the shutdown means no paycheck and no income. If I’m being completely honest, this is just one more kick in the teeth since we moved to California.

It has been a long and lonely few months for me personally; months filled with heartache, bitterness, anger, despair, depression, anxiety, resentment and great trial. I feel much like I am treading water every day of my life, doing everything in my power to keep myself afloat and above the water. Every single time I think I have reached the point of shallow water and peaceful currents, the waves knock me under again. Likewise, every single time I am in the middle of a struggle or a storm, someone tells me one of three things: it’s just a season, God is in control and that they wish there was something they could do.

It’s time that those things stop being our cliche, go-to phrases when someone is in the middle of something hard.

I want people to stop talking about seasons.

I know seasons are biblical. I get that. I understand that. I accept that. King Solomon himself wrote eight verses of scripture specifically talking about seasons. I know that there are seasons of life and that they come and go. That doesn’t make it any easier to listen to nor does it really help when you tell someone that.

Telling someone that it’s a “season” and that “it too shall pass” is like looking at someone who just lost the most important person in the world to them and saying something cliche like, “God has a plan.” We know these things. We understand these things; but that does not make them any easier. I remember when we were struggling with secondary infertility and people said the most hateful things because, somehow, my struggle-our struggle-wasn’t long enough to warrant any pain yet. People hurt in different ways, for different reasons and at different lengths.

When we tell people that something is “just a season” we are basically telling them to just shut-up and deal with whatever they are struggling with…quietly.

Most of us are aware that whatever we are going through is something that will pass. Whether it’s the clinginess of our children, the bout of depression, the period of singleness we may endure, the feeling of loneliness, insert-personal-season-of-struggle-here. We know these things. We understand these things. We believe that the thing we are battling will end.

But, that doesn’t make the right now, in the middle of it any easier. Just because it’s a season doesn’t mean that it’s any less hard or lonely. It doesn’t debunk the pain or the hurt. It doesn’t take away from the ache that is deep inside us. That pain is still there and it’s still very, very real and valid.

My struggle doesn’t mean I stopped believing God is in control.

Of course God is in control. Do you think that because I’m treading water right now that I have stopped believing that God is good or that God can/will/does take care of things? Of course he does. He’s pretty stellar like that. I haven’t lost my faith or my entire belief system just because I’m in the middle of something hard. I may have days where I feel further from God than I would like, but my trust in Him is still totally intact. Even though I know this, whatever I am dealing with at that current moment is still freakin’ hard. It’s still completely crappy and it sucks. No amount of faith will change the fact that my struggle is difficult.

I can ask God to take it from me. I can ask him to make the burden lighter (even Jesus did that). I can cry out to him and lament and weep and tell him I don’t like it or understand it. I can hate the very circumstance that I am in with every fiber of my being. I can do all of those things but that does not mean that I doubt or stopped believing that God is in control. God being in control doesn’t mean that in our humanity we don’t still hurt or experience hardship. In truth, when we say things like this to someone, we are often minimizing their pain all over again.

There is always something you can do…it’s a matter of whether you will.

I have heard this constantly since this government shutdown started and people who know us and aren’t affiliated with the Coast Guard themselves….”I really wish there was something we could do to help you guys…”

Y’all. I can’t even.

Nine times out of ten, when we say this to someone we are only saying this to stroke our own ego and make ourselves feel better about the fact that we either haven’t already done something or that we don’t really want to do something. There is always something you can do for someone. Be it you send them a gift card or some cash (which is something so many of our friends and family have done to help with the financial strain), write them a card or offer to babysit their kids for an hour so they can get out of the house and regroup…there is something you can do. Whatever they are dealing with and whatever their struggle may be-financial, emotional, spiritual-put yourself in their shoes and do the thing that you wish someone would do for you if you were where they are.

People all over are struggling in some way or another. It may not be the government shutdown impacting them. It may not be financial hardship. It may not be depression or death or extended illness. If you ask or look deep enough you will see that we all hurt in some way or another. Maybe it’s time we actually choose to BE the hands and feet of Jesus and do something…instead of just talking about it. Again.

  1. […] That, despite the attempts that I made to keep it all together for him and his younger siblings, there were days when I just wasn’t okay. When I just couldn’t keep it together anymore. Days where, despite how much I loved him and his […]

  2. Amy Hale says:

    I think I may have used the word season when we were talking. If I did, I’m sorry if I came across as insensitive to your situation. The depth of despair and loneliness I am just barely beginning to come out of right now has been excruciating and our family has struggled a ton. My intention was only to share what God showed me, in an attempt to offer hope. Love you.

  3. Cheryl L says:

    Hi Courtney, this is my first visit to your blog, so I don’t know you, but I am truly sorry to hear that you are going through such a hard time right now. I don’t quite understand what you mean by homeschooling being a “very sore” subject for you, but I hope you find your rhythm with it and eventually are able to enjoy it, and to appreciate the extra time you are able to spend with your children, even on those days when you seriously need to get away by yourself to recharge. 😉 I’ve been homeschooling for 5 years now, so I get that. As for the subject of this post, though, I wanted to suggest that, while the comments that people make sometimes may be cliche and seem thoughtless, quite often, they are just what people say when they don’t know what else to say. Yes, there will always be people who rattle off cliches just to sound wise, but even your closest friends and family may be hurting for you and still not know what to say to you or do for you. And, if they are the kind of people who keep their personal pain and suffering to themselves, those cliched truths you mentioned (which, as you said yourself, are actually truths, not trite sayings) may even be the only things they are holding on to as they wade through their own problems. That said, this post came across as angry and judgmental toward people who may only be trying to offer the best they have to give you at the moment. Extend grace. Show mercy. God has given you a platform, not just to tell people your thoughts, but to be a living example of what it means to love God and love others. Reread your final paragraph in this post. It is very wise.

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